Trial Day 3: Medical examiner unable to determine if Abilene newborn was born alive or dead

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Editor’s Note: Click here for a recap of Day One of the Capital Murder trial and click here for a recap of Day Two

ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Day Three of the trial of an Abilene man accused of killing a newborn just moments after birth continued when a medical examiner took the stand to discuss the baby’s autopsy report. 

The examiner confirmed the newborn, Baby Ashley, was born full-term and said she sustained at least three sharp force trauma injuries to the neck, including incisions and stabs. The injuries were depicted to the jury in pictures. 

These wounds went into Baby Ashley’s chest cavity, damaging her left lung and slicing through several ribs. There was also an exit wound on her back and two near-exit wounds. 

Testimony also revealed the umbilical cord was attached to the baby, despite Cate’s multiple claims that the cord wasn’t attached when he saw the baby. 

The medical examiner then testified that she was unable to determine Baby Ashley’s cause of death because she could not definitively say if the baby was alive or dead at birth.

There were, according to medical examiner testimony, no signs of stillbirth but her lungs were also collapsed with minor aeration in her respiratory system and stomach.

DNA Expert: Cate is the father, and his DNA is at the crime scene 

The trial continued when a DNA expert took the stand and testified to whose DNA profiles are involved in the crime. 

This expert testified that the defendant, Damian Cate, is 99.99998% the father of the newborn killed – Baby Ashley.

She also revealed whose DNA was found on weapons discovered at the scene, saying Baby Ashley’s DNA was on the blade of a knife found in the bedroom Cate shared with her mother, Amber Craker. 

Baby Ashley’s DNA was also on the handle of the knife, along with Craker’s. No male blood was present on the knife at all, including Cate’s.

Craker’s DNA showed up on the scissor blades, along with two profiles that were unable to be tested. Her DNA and Cate’s was on the scissors, as well as a trace amount of another DNA profile that could not be tested. 

Craker Interview: Mother admits to slitting newborn’s throat, says she acted alone  

Next, the Abilene police detective who interviewed Craker in the hospital after she gave birth testified. 

He reviewed parts of his interview with Craker, saying she, like Cate, initially denied she had given birth and that there was a baby and then changed her story multiple times.

She said she was bleeding profusely because she cut herself shaving, and when that story fell through, she told the detective she was bleeding from sex, then said it was from self-mutilation.

Hours after the interview began, the detective says she finally admitted to having the baby. She first told him the baby was injured when she slipped while cutting the umbilical cord but later told him she slit the babies throat. 

Cross-Examination of Cate Interview: Multiple inconsistencies when he was telling the “truth”

Day Three of the trial Cate’s defense team cross-examining an Abilene police detective who interviewed Cate prior to his Capital Murder arrest. 

Defense attorneys asked the detective about some inconsistencies in Cate’s story, such as the fact that Cate told the detective there was a lot of blood when he found the newborn, Baby Ashley, under a chair in the bedroom he shared with the baby’s mother, Amber Craker, on the 400 block of S. 25th Street.

Despite Cate’s claim that he saw a lot of blood near the baby, pictures taken of the crime scene show the area under the chair has no signs of any biological tissue or fluids. 

Cate also told detectives during the interview that the baby was found in the trashcan near his bed, but the baby was actually found in a bathroom trashcan. 

During Day Two of the trial, the end of Cate’s taped interview with police was played in court, showing Cate eventually admitted he was holding Baby Ashley when Craker walked up and slit her throat. 

Cate’s defense argues that the idea that someone was next to Cate and stabbed the baby was seeded by detectives in the interview, and the detective testifying did confirm he originally presented the idea of someone standing next to Cate stabbing the baby.

Next, several items of clothing was submitted into evidence, including clothing worn by Cate, Craker, and Craker’s father, who was home during the ‘birth’ of Baby Ashley and provided assistance afterward.

Cate’s clothing revealed possible blood spatter on his pants and shoes, but as the defense pointed out, his shirt and jacket were clean, suggesting that if he were wearing the same clothing the entire time Craker was giving birth up until his detainment, he could not have been holding the baby when her throat was slit like he claimed at the end of his interview with police. 

Craker’s father’s clothing was also free of blood, but Craker’s shirt and pajama pants, which were recovered from the crime scene, both had possible blood stains. 

The defense and prosecution focused on her shirt – the defense saying that a stain on the back of the shirt would be consistent with someone holding a baby and stabbing it if Craker was wearing the shirt backward, and the prosecution argued the stain could have come from any of the blood at the scene and that it’s speculation to assume Craker was wearing it backward. 

Prosecutors also argued that during his interviews with police, Cate told detectives the baby was found in the bathroom even though that knowledge was not disclosed to him and that when detectives asked him to select a baby doll for demonstrative purposes, he chose one that looked similar to Baby Ashley. 

After the detective was excused from the stand, another Abilene police employee submitted two envelopes into evidence, one containing DNA from Baby Ashley. He was then released without being questioned. 

The plumber who was called to the crime scene to find Baby Ashley the morning after she was killed in January of 2016 gave brief testimony next, saying his team began by sending cameras into the plumbing system at the home on S. 25th Street, but once he realized the system was blocked due to roots and broken pipes, they attempted to manually remove the line, eventually cutting a hole into the side of the house and pulling it out there. It was then they discovered a placenta lodged in the plumbing system, but no baby, 6 hours after the plumbers initially arrived. 

Baby Ashley would be found a short time later inside a bathroom trash can that had been seized by police at the scene. 

BigCountryHomepage will keep providing twice-daily updates from court as Cate’s Capital Murder Trial continues. Check back for the latest information. 

Craker was convicted of the same charges Cate is facing – Capital Murder and Tampering with Evidence – during her trial, which took place over a 4-day period in September, and was sentenced to serve life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

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